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'No Ordinary Joes' Tells Stories Of Love And War

Bob Palmer, Chuck Vervalin, Tim McCoy and Gordy Cox lived hardscrabble lives growing up during the Great Depression. The four young men joined the Navy during World War II and forged an unbreakable bond as crew members on the USS Grenadier.

The Grenadier sank when it was struck by a Japanese aerial torpedo, and though the entire crew survived, they were immediately taken prisoner. For nearly the next three years, Palmer, Vervalin, McCoy and Cox were starved and tortured in Japanese prison camps.

Author Larry Colton tells their story of tragedy and survival in No Ordinary Joes: The Extraordinary True Story of Four Submariners in War and Love and Life.

The book recounts the soldiers' harrowing experiences as POWs, but it is also, at its core, an incredible love story.

Bob Palmer married his high school sweetheart, Barbara, in 1941, just months before he became a POW. Then, thinking Bob had been killed at sea, Barbara became engaged to another man. Almost three decades -- and many travails -- later, she married her first love a second time.

NPR's Neal Conan talks with Colton about the four submariners' extraordinary true story, from their imprisonment to the joys and heartbreaks of readjusting to an ever-changing post-war era.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.